The Uncanny


In class, I suggested that Stephen Dedalus’ first wanderings toward the brothels of Dublin bore some resemblance to Freud’s description of uncanny wandering in “The Uncanny.”

I found an e-text of Freud’s 1919 essay here, and reproduce for you the passage that, to my mind, resonates with Joyce.
The factor of the repetition of the same thing will perhaps not appeal to everyone as a source of uncanny feeling. From what I have observed, this phenomenon does undoubtedly, subject to certain conditions and combined with certain circumstances, arouse an uncanny feeling, which, furthermore, recalls the sense of helplessness experienced in some dream-states. As I was walking, one hot summer afternoon, through the deserted streets of a provincial town in Italy which was unknown to me, I found myself in a quarter of whose character I could not long remain in doubt. nothing but painted women were to be seen at the windows of the small houses, and I hastened to leave the narrow street at the next turning. But after having wandered about for a time without enquiring my way, I suddenly found myself back in the same street, where my presence was now beginning to excite attention. I hurried away once more, only to arrive by another detour at the same place yet a third time. Now, however, a feeling overcame me which I can only describe as uncanny, and I was glad enough to find myself back at the piazza I had left a short while before, without any further voyages of discovery. ….
Note the coy “a quarter of whose character I could not remain in doubt.” There is a reason why, in the early modern period, these men found themselves simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by city neighborhoods full of brothels. I’d love to hear your thought on this connection...